The Basement Band played outside, doing covers of rock classics and ending their set with the seminal Eagles hit “Hotel California” as a large crowd watched from the shade of the large tree in St. Francis Parish. of Assisi on Sunday afternoon. This was Francis Fest – the 20th edition (under different names) of a festival celebrating Saint Francis and the combined churches of Saint Mary and Saint Henry, which came together in 2019 to form the parish.
Beginning at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, there was a bilingual outdoor mass at which all were welcome, followed by a four-hour block party filled with homemade food, children’s games, Loteria (a Mexican game similar to Bingo) and entertainment on the main stage. Father Alan Dietzenbach, the parish’s chief pastor, also read out the names of the winners of various raffle items.
The experience brought together the Marshalltown Catholic community and associate pastor Fr. Kyle Tietz said it was a great success.
“It was a great day, blessed with great weather here and great turnout,” Tietz said. “Great with food, a big outdoor mass and now some entertainment to end the evening. In Spanish, we say convivio. In English, we have conviviality, but we don’t use it that much. It means “sharing life together”. That’s what we’re doing today, and I think it’s a great opportunity to do that.
Having been with St. Francis for nearly a year, Tietz said that in his capacity, he set out to assist the parish’s Hispanic minister, Sister Chris Feagan, in any way possible while planning the ‘event.
Feagan said it was a huge win for the church and for the community – mentioning that it had grown bigger than expected given the turnout.
“It’s a huge success,” Feagan said. “The way the community comes together, so many people stayed. They came for mass at 10:30 a.m. and they are still there. We just have people who are ready to help. There were about 40 people here setting up the stage, carrying chairs and setting up tables.
Volunteers and various Marshalltown businesses donated to help provide St. Francis with food and water for the afternoon, with Feagan citing donations from Burger King, Wal-Mart, Kwik Star, JBS and Iowa Premium Beef, in particular. There was also a great selection of Mexican and Salvadoran dishes, including a crowd favorite in the pupusas.
It was such a catering hit that there were long queues after 3pm, with people returning within seconds and making their first trip for three hours into the festival.
Feagan said the planning committee already knows it will need more grills ahead of next year’s event.
“We have three new grills and four new awnings for this year,” Feagan said. “We ran out of pork burgers. We ran out of Blizzards. I think we have more people this year than last year. I think everyone is really, really happy – I’ve only heard good comments.
She added that more components of the event are supported by those who volunteer to organize said events, such as the Loteria table. Feagan said they offered to run the table and collect the awards next year, which she says not only shows people’s commitment to Francis Fest, but that people take ownership of it, which which will hopefully only build the festival for years to come.
Notable stage performances included a series of tricks performed by Tietz, which included fire juggling, a skill he was happy to work on in the event after learning to perform it at a young age. It was a hit with the young people present.
“I started juggling when I was in primary school. I thought it was the coolest thing we did in gym class,” Tietz said. “I could have done it last year, but I had to build the hype and do it this year. It was fun to share those talents.